“I wish we could just meet all over again”
Joachim Trier has definitely accomplished something with his debut feature film. The opening sequence is so disorienting that you can’t begin to expect what will happen next. Showing a montage of what “could” happen once our two leads mail out their manuscripts, from success to failure to meeting again and succeeding together, is a bold move. I wasn’t sure if we had just been privy to the entire film condensed and would soon see the details, or if the title of the film would be taken literally and we’d see a Reprise of the events. Of course, the latter is what occurred. After the montage, we are transported back to that fateful moment of their first novels being submitted for publishing. This time, however, in the real world, only Phillip succeeds in getting a book deal done while Erik is rejected to try again. Both young men then find their lives going in different directions only to converge once more at a dark place for both, a time for a rebirth in life for Phillip and career for Erik.
The gimmick of showing the audience multiple vignettes of the past throughout the film never seems forced. Always seamlessly giving us insight and background into the proceedings, these teleportations through time help flesh out our characters and their motivations. We learn how these two writers got mixed up with a group of friends a little rougher around the edges than them, how Phillip and his girlfriend Kari met, the boys’ affinity for author Sten Egil Dahl, and much more. The most brilliant use is when Phillip and Kari go to Paris to relive the journey that made them fall in love the first time. A trip where he hopes to regain those feelings he had been programmed to forget during his stint in a mental hospital, the mixing of scenes from the first time and this current time are nice. The dialogue is overlapping the images, sporadically rejoining with the mouth movements of the characters before getting unsynched again. Words and images don’t necessarily have to converge here, whether it the voice of the leads or that of the narrator. A story is being told; we are shown what could happen in their lives, not necessarily the end all.
When the final black screen of Stop is shown, you begin to wonder what other way the story could have gone. What could have happened if Erik found initial success and not Phillip? Would the latter’s psychosis still have cropped up? Would Erik have fallen fast into pretentiousness like fellow writer Mathis Wergeland? Who knows? Trier just gives us a glimpse of this one way that it can happen, and for once it is not the easy way out. What continues on as a tragedy, one where you can just feel something horrific will occur, to the point where the director puts us in a sequence that screams suicide is made all the more powerful by the prospect of happiness at the end. The opening introduction ends on a happy note, so there is always hope the meat of the film will too, despite the allusions to epic tragedy of Icarus flying too close to the sun.
Overall, the actual activity of writing a novel has little to do with the meaning of the film. It is just the occupation of these two men, the driving force of their lives and impetus for how they live. What Reprise truly concerns is the meaning of life and how one chooses to live it. It is a cyclical path bringing people in and out of each other’s vision for good or worse at the most random times. Relationships play a huge role as well, whether they are romantic or platonic. Erik and Phillip have a bond with one another, a bond that had been forged at a very young age. The two compete yet also prop the other up when they need it most. At times there is jealousy and hatred, but never at their cores. The inclusion of Lillian and Kari only show both men’s insecurities in themselves; Erik keeping Lillian away from the friends he hangs with and Phillip unable to accept the profound love he has for Kari. Both writers have dreams, but they are young, and achieving them too fast can have a profound effect on even the strongest soul.
This strong story and deftly handled craft is bolstered by a couple brilliant performances. Sure the group is fun to join with on their excursions—a party towards the end is a lot of fun—yet the main three shine above all else. Viktoria Winge is stunning as Kari, so deeply in love with her broken man, she is willing to pick up the pieces of their relationship after his time away getting help. Trying her hardest to stay patient with Phillip, she does everything in her power to make him remember what it was they felt upon meeting, to smile at the memory of him saying they were always destined to meet and be together. Espen Klouman-Høiner as Erik is very good as well. He is the rock of the group, the one with his head on straight always attempting to help those around him, sometimes at the neglect of himself. At the end, when faced with the dilemma of staying around to help or going away from Oslo to clear his mind and hone his apparent skills from his first novel, the decision weighs deeply upon him. Lastly, and most importantly, is Anders Danielsen Lie portraying Phillip. A deeply emotive soul, he is one who needs to break and fail in order to except the fact that he is fallible. Getting all he wants so early only eats away at him, making him feel that it is undeserved. Needing to find alignment again, it takes time and pain to be able to live once more in happiness.
Reprise 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½
 Anders Danielsen Lie as Phillip, Viktoria Winge as Kari. Photo credit: Nils Vik/Courtesy of Miramax Films
 Magnus Williamson as Morten, Pål Stokka as Geir, Espen Klouman Høiner as Erik, Anders Danielsen Lie as Phillip, Viktoria Winge as Kari, and Christian Rubeck as Lars. Photo credit: Nils Vik/Courtesy of Miramax Films.